News and updates about Medicare.

Figure in sillouette at the end of a dark tunnel
MK1_FIESTA via Pixabay

This year, for the first time, Medicare is reimbursing physicians for the time spent discussing patients’ preferences for care at the end of life. For Dr. Larry D. Cripe, a hematologist with expertise in palliative care at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, caring well for people who die is an important part of his commitment to his patients and their families. So we asked him for his thoughts on what the new rule can- and cannot accomplish. Here’s Dr. Cripe’s reflection:

Results are in from the first year of a bold change to the way hospitals get paid in Maryland, and so far the experiment seems to be working.

We recently reported on the unique system the state is trying to rein in health care costs. Maryland phased out fee-for-service payments to hospitals in favor of a fixed pot of money each year.

Medicare Spending for Hepatitis C Cures Surges

Oct 21, 2015

Medicare's prescription drug program spent nearly $4.6 billion in the first half of this year on expensive new cures for the liver disease hepatitis C  - almost as much as it spent for all of 2014.

Rebates from pharmaceutical companies 2014 the amounts of which are confidential 2014 will reduce Medicare's final tab for the drugs, by up to half. Even so, the program's spending will likely continue to rise, in part because of strong demand.

Chris Porter via

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) announced plans Thursday to introduce new legislation intended to lower drug prices and increase Americans’ access to prescription medications.

White House budget director Shaun Donovan called for a "more aggressive strategy" to thwart improper government payments to doctors, hospitals and insurance companies in a previously undisclosed letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell earlier this year.

Government health care programs covering millions of Americans waste billions of tax dollars every year through these improper payments, Donovan said in the Feb. 26, 2015 letter.

Medicare Says Doctors Should Get Paid To Discuss End-Of-Life Issues

Aug 19, 2015
Jo Ann Farwell has a brain tumor and wants to make sure her sons are clear about her end-of-life wishes. After talking with her doctor, she filled out a form that Oregon provides to help those family conversations.
Alan Sylvestre / Oregon Public Broadcasting

Remember the so-called death panels?

When Congress debated the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the legislation originally included a provision that would have allowed Medicare to reimburse doctors when they meet with patients to talk about end-of-life care.

But then Sarah Palin argued that such payments would lead to care being withheld from the elderly and disabled. Her comment ignited a firestorm among conservatives and helped fuel the opposition to the legislation.

Her assertions greatly distressed Dr. Pamelyn Close, a palliative care specialist in Los Angeles.

Anna Frodesiak/Wikimedia Commons

Waiting for a kidney transplant can be a long, difficult process. But a study performed in Georgia suggests that for some patients—particularly those from low-income neighborhoods—even getting that process started can be a challenge. 

Beginning next year, the federal government will conduct a five-year, 40-state experiment to determine whether there is a better way to help elderly Americans come to grips with terminal illnesses and prepare to die.

Progress For Bill To Bolster Medicare Patients' Hospital Rights

Jul 29, 2015

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday night requiring hospitals across the nation to tell Medicare patients when they receive observation care but haven't been admitted to the hospital as inpatients.

The distinction is easy for patients to miss — until they get hit with big medical bills after a short stay.

Healthcare Expenditures Are Picking Up Again

Jul 29, 2015
D Gorenstein

When it comes to healthcare, it’s generally understood we have a spending problem. Namely, we spend too much.

A new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suggests expenditures are picking back up after a recent historic slowdown.

But even with the uptick, these numbers suggest the nation is making progress.